Opening October 5th: What Makes A Better Movie, Greed or Passion?

Their Have Been Plenty Of Examples Of Greed That Have Worked And Passion That Have Failed Even If We Wished There Weren’t

Last March two big hollywood movies were released that had similarities to each of the big studio releases this week, and it didn’t play out well. We had a “Not Again” sequel in Wrath of the Titans (also with Liam Neeson, ironically) that was clearly motivated by “cashing in”, not good and disappointed at the box office and we had a big budget passion project in John Carter and we all know how that did. I suppose it isn’t entirely fair to use those movies as “comps” for Taken 2 and Frankenweenie, but they do prove a point; more often than not when a studio does a sequel to capitalize on the popularity of the original rather than a logical progression of story or when a studio gives a director a lot of money to make the movie he has dreamed about making since he (or she) was a kid the end result isn’t what anybody hoped it would be. Are their exceptions? Sure, probably more commonly with the films motivated by business than those motivated by art, but exceptions exist in each category. The question this weekend is will Taken 2 be one of those exception (Lethal Weapon 2) or will it be the rule (Caddyshack 2)? And what about Frankenweenie? Can Tim Burton recapture the kind of quirky magic that defined so many of his earlier films or is the “kids” movie about a boy resurrecting his pet destined for the kind of malaise that surrounded Dark Shadows? I’m rooting for art and passion but if I was betting on success I would sadly take greed every time.

Taken 2
Interest Level: 8
So You Think It Will Be Really Good: Heaven’s No, But I Want To See It
It would be nearly impossible for Taken 2 to surprise anyone anywhere. We have all seen the original and we all get the premise. This time the parents are taken instead of the daughter but don’t fret, it doesn’t take our erstwhile hero long to escape and begin killing Albanian mobsters again. If ever there was an “it is what it is” movie Taken 2 is it. We all know this and most of us are happily going to the cineplexes anyway because it is fun to watch Liam Neeson kick butt for a couple of hours.
Frankenweenie
Interest Level: 9
Will Your Eight Year Old Son Like It: Not As Much As I Will
If you are curious where Frankenweenie came from here is the 1984 short Tim Burton made that was the world’s first glimpse of his pet project (a little pun intended).
Jump ahead 28 years and we have the stop motion picture that Disney believes in enough to put a lot of marketing muscle behind. That is surprising not because Frankenweenie isn’t good, it is in fact REALLY good, but because it is a “kids” movie that is made much more for adults than it is for kids. If you have kids under the age of 10 it is a more than safe bet they will enjoy Hotel Transylvania more than they will Frankenweenie; and it is an equally safe bet that the parents who take the kids will enjoy Frankenweenie MUCH more than Hotel Transylvania. Having said that, for many of us it is just a happy occurrence that Tim Burton seems to have regained his sense of quirky whimsy that was so much apart of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and so many of his classics. Not since Big Fish (a hugely underrated movie) has a Burton movie felt this much like a Tim Burton movie, and that is a very good thing.
The Paperboy
Interest Level: 3
What A Cast Though: Yeah, Amazing
Lee Daniels made Precious, a movie that was filled with terrific performances even though it really wasn’t a terrific movie. The main flaw with Precious was its complete lack of subtlety, The Paperboy makes Precious seem like the most subtle movie of all time. The Paperboy is the story of two brother’s, one a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter the other an aimless paperboy, who find themselves pulled into a story about a convicted murder and his jailhouse lover. Weird sex and a story that feels like it is meant to have deep meaning and yet the meaning is nowhere to be found follow. But man, check out that cast! Zac Efron (the paperboy), Nicole Kidman (the jailhouse love who pees on Efron at one point because he is stung by jelly fish), Matthew McConaughey (the prize winning journalist who is caught with more than his pants down in a hotel room) and John Cusak as the murderous inmate (or is he, dum, dum, dum).
Wuthering Heights
Interest Level: 0
What! Its Wuthering Heights: Seen It, Read It, Don’t Need To Go Back To It
To all the Bronte fans I am sorry if my complete and total lack of interest is offensive in some way shape or form. No offense intended but I didn’t love this book when I read it in college, I didn’t love the Ralph Fiennes/Juliette Binoche version in the early 90’s or the Masterpiece Theater version a few years later and I am reasonably certain I won’t love the NBC adaptation set in Napa Valley set to come out next year on the small screen. Bronte fans should love this version as it seems well cast, well shot and well made and earnest in its adapting of the source material. I’m just not going to bother.
The House They Live In
Interest Level: 4
Is It Well Done: Absolutely
A documentary about our criminal justice system and the implications our country’s drug policy. Yup, you’ve seen this, or things very near to this, before. We all have. Is it serious? Absolutely. Should we take notice? Yup. Will this movie provide any kind of spark or answers that are useful or practical? Nope.
Escape Fire: The Fight To Rescue American Health Care
Interest Level: 4
This Review Is Going To Be Nearly Identical To The Last One, Isn’t It: Oh Yeah.
Everything I wrote about The House They Live In applies here. Each are well done, interesting and feel like something closer to homework than a movie, even a documentary, should.
The Oranges
Interest Level: 6
Couldn’t This Have Been A TV Series: This Should Be A TV Series
A dramedy about two families who are great friends but have their friendship tested by a romance between the patriarch of one clan and the daughter of the other. Now, you want to talk about casts, this one gives you Hugh Laurie, Allison Janney, Catherine Keener and Leighton Meester (I don’t care as much about the last one, but the other three are amazing). This has the feel of a TV series, both because of its plotting and because it stars a lot of people who we think of as TV actors. ABC should have picked this up and paired it with Modern Family, it would have been a huge hit. As it is, it’s fine.
Butter
Interest Level: 3
Jennifer Garner Playing An Uptight Shrew, What Are The Odds: Exactly
This movie feels like they are going for a Christopher Guest-eque irony but it has none of the affection for the characters or the world that Guest always puts in his movies. Butter feels almost mean in an entirely unintended way. It’s about butter sculpting competitions by the by.
Conclusion
What you expect, a grown-up movie posing as a kids movie, two docs that feel like homework, a comedy that feels like a TV show, a drama that makes you kind of want to take a shower afterward, Jennifer Garner playing the same role she plays in every comedy she does and an adaptation of a book you had to read in college. That made it all sound worse than it is.
But hey, what do I know? I’m fat.